RVer concerned about “too much” tire pressure increase

RV Tire Safety
with RV tire expert Roger Marble

I was reading an RV forum thread on TPMS usage recently and one comment jumped out at me:

I have a serious concern with the G-rated tires on my 5th wheel trailer. When I run the cold max pressure at 110 psi, I get TPMS readings up to 134 psi rolling down the road. Lately, I have been running 95 psi cold and am getting 115-119 psi rolling. The tires and rims are rated for 110 psi. I can live with 120 psi, but the 134 psi concerns me.

I replied that inflation ratings for wheels are based on a “cold” pressure. Increase in pressure due to operation is considered by manufacturers and I would not be concerned as long as the proper cold inflation is used along with appropriate limits on load and speed.

Tire wording “Max Pressure” can be confusing, but in reality the pressure stated on the tire sidewall is the cold pressure needed to support the stated load, and that load is the maximum load the tire should be subjected to. I advised the owner that he should not underinflate his tires and plan on operation temperature to increase the pressure. “Cold” pressure is the only pressure you should be concerned with.

Tire pressure increases by about 2% for each increase in temperature of 10 F. If you don’t remember the science from high school you can read this post. If you are seeing a 21% increase in pressure (110 > 134) that means you are seeing about a 100 F increase in internal tire temperature, which I would consider a bit excessive for normal tire operation.

If you are seeing a 25% increase in pressure (95 > 119) then you are getting a 125 F increase in temperature, which indicates you are working the tires even harder. This extra “work” that is generating a greater temperature increase is not good for long-term tire life – you are “aging” the tire rubber faster. Some might want to review this “key point” of tire life as covered in this post.

I cover these points on Temperature, Inflation and Aging in various posts on my RV tire blog.

Your temperature increase indicates you are possibly overloading your tires and also possibly driving faster than desirable for your tire loading.

You need to confirm your pressure is 110 psi and that your gauge is giving an accurate reading at that level.

The poster then responded:

“Today I drove 250 miles and my 95 PSI tires were running 115-119 PSI and the tire temps were at 20 F above outside temp, 50 outside and 71 tire readings. I still contend that 134 PSI is way too dangerous for tires to run on 110 rated tires.”

So I responded:

Few people realize that the pressure increase as a function of temperature is based on well-established and confirmable physics and that a TPMS is not reading the actual tire temperature  but is actually reading the temperature of the brass valve stem and the metal base of the TPMS itself, which is being cooled by outside air.

Air is a very good insulator and if you think about it, you have a small column of air running up the inside of the valve stem which makes it difficult for the heat to travel up the center of the stem and past the valve core itself, all while the valve is moving rapidly around being cooled by the outside air.

I am aware of laboratory tests that go against what “common sense” might indicate – that being that the air inside a tire is not uniform in temperature but it is always cooler than the hot spots of a tire, and it is the hot spots that can result in tire failing if hot enough for long enough.

I have no doubt that the TPMS was indicating only 20 F above the cool 50 F outside air temperature. If you are still concerned about the hot pressure of 134 on tires that have a cold pressure rating of 110 for its max load capacity rating, as a tire design engineer with 40 years’ experience, I trust the science of the “Gas Law” and knowledge that air is an insulator and metal conducts heat from a hot source to a cooler one.

I don’t know what to advise other than to decrease the operating load and speed, confirm your hand gauge is accurate, and always inflate the tire when cold to 110 psi – as continued operation at current load and speeds will certainly result in pressure readings that are above the cold pressure of 110 psi.

Read more from Roger Marble on his blog at RVtiresafety.net.

 ##RVT826

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8 Thoughts to “RVer concerned about “too much” tire pressure increase”

  1. Earl Balentine

    After reading everything about tire pressure and weights I am still confused. I’m pretty sure that all the RV manufacturers are using tires that barely meet the max weight for the rv. So I assuming if the tire max pressure is 80psi cold then that’s what I should be running in my tires, right?

  2. Cliff

    The problem with using the max pressure on the sidewalls, is that, as the author stated, that is the maximum pressure for the rated load. That doesn’t mean it is the right pressure for the actual load. One should get the load/pressure chart from the tire OEM and inflate according to that based on the actual weight on them. As an example, the 445/50R22.5 tires on my semi truck have a max inflation of 120 psi for the max rated load. For the max 17K on the axle, the load pressure chart recommends 95 PSI. I got 447,000 miles out of a set of these tires. No uneven wear, no scalping, etc. For maximum performance, handling, braking, etc, tires should be inflated to the right pressure for the load on them.

  3. Stanley Sokolow

    Regarding excessive temperature in the trailer tires (“… you are seeing about a 100 F increase in internal tire temperature, which I would consider a bit excessive for normal tire operation.”):

    The first thing that comes to my mind is that the trailer braking system should be checked, particularly whether the controller in the towing vehicle is applying some current to the electric brakes in the trailer even when the vehicle’s brakes have not been applied. A small drag in the trailer brakes while driving can heat up the brake drum, wheel, and tire. Electric brake controllers have a sensitivity setting. If it’s set too sensitively, or if the controller is defective, it can apply the trailer electric brakes slightly all the time.

  4. booneyrat

    One can understand why so many folks have blowouts by watching them pull a trailer at 75 mph down any of America’s worn out roads. Why do they call it common sense when there is so little of it anymore. Slow down and enjoy life while you still can.

  5. Alex

    Also consider the effect of solar radiation on tire temperatures. Even in moderate climate conditions (60 to 70 degrees F) and legal freeway speeds (65 mph) I’ve had 15 to 20 degree variance between the shadow side and the sunny side of our Class C.

    1. Jeff

      Correct! When traveling in the early morning hours, you will see an increase in tire pressure on the SUNNY Side of the Trailer and a normal tire pressure on the NON SUN side. As the Sun rises, by noon, if you are still on the road, the tire pressures will begin to equalize.

  6. Tommy Molnar

    I just make sure I have my tires at the suggested psi in the cool of the morning, and off we go. So far, in 25 years of RV’ing, this seems to have worked. I’m sure someone will say I’ve just been lucky (not sure why), and so be it. I like lucky . . .

  7. Darrel

    It sounds like this RVer is setting his pressures to the max allowable (cold) on the tires.

    What he should do instead is weigh the rig (by wheel position) , then air the tires to a pressure to match the weight load, plus a safety margin of approx. 5 psi.

    Absolutely correct that the tire and wheel engineers rated them for COLD pressures, and the safety margin for hot pressure is already considered and built in.

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